He climbed down from the counter. “Maybe we should each take one. I’ll go up in the attic, and you take the guy out front.” He paused, studying me with a fatherly gaze. His eyes raked my face. “You’re really pale, Ella. I know you want the guy who shot you, but I don’t want you up there.” He stroked my face with his knuckles. “If anything happened to me, you wouldn’t be able to get down by yourself. Then what would happen to Allison?”
I jerked away from him, the movement making me dizzy and proving his point. The bit about Allison was really and unfair ploy. True, but unfair. I saw the logic in his reasoning. Sighing, I conceded his point. “Okay. You win. But you have to help me get set up.” I grabbed a glass and filled it with water, then swallowed sixteen-hundred milligrams of ibuprofen. The bleeding had been slowed, but I would pass out from the pain if I didn’t take something. Turning back to Dominic, I said, “And of course I’m pale. I was shot, Dominic. I lost a lot of blood.” Maybe I was bit brusque, but my nerves were stretched beyond their limits.
To Dominic’s credit, he didn’t acknowledge my tart tone. Leaning forward, he planted a kiss on my forehead and lead me back into the bedroom. “Do you think you can hit that guy with your pistol?”
“Oh yeah. He’s right at the top of the hill,” I said as I peeked through the curtain again. I met Dominic’s green gaze. “You shoot first. Hopefully that will distract him enough for me to get a clear shot.”
He just nodded, his eyes drowning in turmoil. He buried his hands in my hair and pulled my face to his, pressing a hard kiss to my lips. “We’re gonna get through this, Ella. And then I’m gonna make it all up to you and Allison.” Then he turned and left the room.
I heard him scrambling up into the attic space a minute later. His body slid across the ceiling behind me. A few more shuffles and bumps gave the impression that he was building up something to rest the rifle on. The less the barrel poked out of the vent, the better. One thing in Dominic’s favor was the darkness up there. His scope lens wouldn’t reflect any light back to the sniper.
My heart was pounding. From my injury, and from the anticipation of the imminent showdown. The fast it thumped behind my ribs, the more blood I would lose. I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to hold my head up. Dominic had to be quick.
Long seconds ticked into endless minutes. The black haze began pushing it’s way back into my head, fogging the periphery of my vision. But I kept my eyes trained on the man in the tree at the top of the hill.
A thought occurred to me then. If that man turned around, he’d have a clear view of the cave where Allison was hiding. She should be laying low, completely invisible from the ground. But from the trees? I wasn’t so sure. I couldn’t take that chance. My bullet had to be on target the first time.
The explosion from the attic startled me, and I flinched. The man in the tree was more surprised than me, the boom nearly knocking him off balance and out of the tree.
I took aim and fired. But the clouds edging into my vision threw my aim off. The bullet hit him in the shoulder. He toppled backward, feet over head, landing on the ground with an audible thump. If I had any hopes that the fall would dispatch the camo-clad brute, alleviating me from putting a bullet through his heart--or head--they were dashed when he moved.
Trying to push himself behind the tree he had been perched in, the man struggled to pull his weight with his good arm while dragging his weapon with his now dead right arm. I hoped he was right handed.
Placing him between my sights again, I took a deep breath and blew it out. Then I squeezed. The second bang deafened me, and my world went black for an instant.
Seconds later the light swam back to me through the depths. Everything was blurry, but I could make out the limp form of the sniper. His head was propped up on the tree trunk at an odd angle, his body lying prone on the leaf litter he blended with so well. I had no idea where I hit him, but he was definitely dead.
I turned to find the man out by the road. His methodical movements indicated he was searching for the shooter. Well, I wasn’t going to give him a chance to blow my other arm to bits. Or any other part of me, for that matter. I ducked away from the window, rolling onto the bed on my back as I fought to hold on to my consciousness.
Dominic bounded into the room. “Did you get ‘im, Ella?”
I couldn’t see his face through my closed eyelids, but I imagined him gazing at me on the bed, pale and seemingly unconscious. Or dead. I could feel his fear overtake his excitement.
“Ella?” His weight sank onto the bed. His hands felt my face, by pulse, and examined my entire torso. Looking for wounds? Then they returned to frame my face again. “Stay with me, Ella.”
“Mmmm,” I moaned. Talking required too much energy. As did opening my eyes. But I wanted him to know I was still with him.
“Are you hurt anywhere else?”
I moved my head side to side an infinitesimal amount, and thankfully Dominic picked up on it.
“Okay. Good.” He sounded lost, like he didn’t know where to go from here.
Strengthening my resolve, I opened my eyes and found his gazing down at me. He looked as lost as he sounded. “I’m okay. Mostly. Tired. Gotta get to Allison.”